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From the Jordan Times weekender
by: Ammar Khammash

Flora feast On wild flowers

Within half an hour drive from Amman , one can be in the midst of a
landscape in full bloom. Wadi Shu'ayb, to the south of Salt, is good
specially for early spring or cold days. Other destinations include villages
near Allan, to the northwest of Salt, with many wonderful drives, on dirt
roads, that eventually take you to the Jordan valley by the southern banks
of the Zarqa River .

In general, look for smaller, less-used roads, passing by natural
shrub-covered slopes, rocky cliffs, or marginal land near natural forests
and older farming plots.

Take a lot of films, the lower [asa] the better as it has less grain,
100 asa is good enough. Never use flash, and most of your attention should be
given to composition, getting the right contrast in light and securing
appropriate depth-of-field.

Nature is amazing. It often hides something new, and for one, those who think
that the same wild flowers come back again every spring, the surprising
variations from year to year remain always gratifying.

Wild flowers are but the very upper end of a complex system. When walking in
a meadow, you are actually stepping on living skin, on an organism that has
evolved, and is continuing to thrive, as a complete living tissue that raps
around every wrinkle where landscape is in contact with light and cycles of
the atmosphere.

Jordan has one of the richest, and most diverse wildflower habitats in the
world. When botanists count how many different species of wildflowers exist
in one square meter, Jordan can present some surprising spots with
overwhelming biodiversity.

On a hillside, the vegetation-cover turns around from the sunlit face into
the shade. Facing north, wildflowers change their blend, with different
species, that prefer the shady moist soil, becoming more abundant. At some
parts, the ground cover becomes thicker, with taller grass and shrubs,
giving shelter for more fragile flowers. Flowers give the impression that
all their needs are resolved, and among all these plants, weaving this
heavenly textile, every kind assumes a role.

Some flowers guard themselves with thorns, making it difficult for the goat.
Some flowers hide in other thorny bush or use a bitter taste or some poison
to avoid being grazed. Some flowers hide their bulb deep in the soil, or
their roots safe into the crack of a rock. Other flowers hang in difficult
places or develop a quick flowering and seeding cycle to escape threats.

The variety and beauty of wildflowers is basically the result of their
intricate survival strategies. Every flower has found a trick to defend
itself and to attract useful insects at the same time. It is an eternal
beauty competition, and these flowers have mastered it well.

Down the slope, with changes of altitude from sea level, change in amount of
rain, and change in temperatures and soil composition, the flora also
changes. Besides the climatic differences, which in Jordan can best be tied
to height, being north or south, and being close or further away from the
Eastern Desert, the type of soil as relevant to the geological formation ads
another dimension to the complexity behind the richness in plant diversity.
Some wildflowers prefer soils with different acidity, moisture levels and
type of nutrients. As soil gradually changes, nature is tempted to create
new variety, an attempt to custom-design different floral solution to fit the
change in the shape of the land.

There are also cycles of weather. In some springs, one flower would favor
the warmth or the amount and timing of rain of that specific winter, and, in
the coming spring, it will dominate the scene. Some springs, on the other
hand, are colored by flowers that were, during the summer before, spread by
insect or by birds.

Today all the flowers are now in bloom, waiting for you, shimmering and
glowing in all colors, like stain-glass with rare minerals, backlit by the
spring sun. Every year, and for thousands of years, these flowers keep
coming back, in different combinations, but always insisting to enrich us
and heel us. Even if you do not have the time to greet them this spring,
they insist putting on the show, just in case that in the last minute you
change your mind.

Globe Thistle: Thorns to protect the flowers from the goats and a
beautiful blue to attract bees.

Egyptian Caper: Some flowers favor shady mountainside and
moist soils.

Violet Larkspur: Short flowering season or bitter
taste are some of the survival strategies used by some plants.

Copyright 2005 Flora of Jordan. All rights reserved.